He’s no Obama — NJ State Police leader applauds Trump on Cuba
The superintendent of the State Police on Friday applauded President Donald Trump for demanding that Cuba return fugitive Joanne Chesimard, who escaped from a New Jersey state prison in 1979.
Col. Rick Fuentes' laudatory response was in contrast to remarks he made in January about outgoing President Barack Obama, whose administration began normalizing relations with the Cold War-era foe.
Trump made the demand for the return of Chesimard — who was convicted for her role in the killing of a state trooper on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973 — as he spoke in Miami about U.S. policy toward Cuba.
"Return the fugitives from American justice, including the return of the cop killer Joanne Chesimard," Trump said.
Fuentes — in a Facebook post that indicates that the State Police paid for it to be more widely seen — said he was now "more hopeful than ever" that Chesimard would be brought to justice.
"On behalf of all the men and women of the New Jersey State Police, I am grateful for his recognition and deep concern that Cuba continues to harbor this country's most wanted cop killers and domestic terrorists," Fuentes said.
In January, Fuentes said the Obama administration's deal with Cuba showed “the back of the hand” to law enforcement because it did not stipulate the return of fugitives like Chesimard, who was given asylum by the communist regime and now goes by the name Assata Shakur.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., a Cuban-American who criticized the Obama administration's policy toward Cuba, called Trump's announcement "a step in the right direction to reverse an ill-advised and misguided Cuba policy that has failed to deliver on its promises, left the Cuban people worse off, and allowed American fugitives, like wanted terrorist and cop-killer Joanne Chesimard, to escape justice."
Gov. Chris Christie has said that he has urged Trump, whom he considers a personal friend, to make moves on Chesimard.
Christie on Friday said Trump's statement "should give great confidence to every American who supports our system of justice."
Christie spoke about the issue in March during New Jersey 101.5's "Ask the Governor":
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. 4th District, said Friday he intends to reintroduce the Cuba Human Rights Act, which would demand the return of fugitives.
“I am encouraged by President Trump’s seeking to curtail the flow of funds to the communist Castro regime in Cuba," Smith said. "This is the first step in halting the Obama Administration’s misguided policy—which overlooked egregious human rights abuses, including the regime’s complicity in human trafficking, in order to further his personal 'legacy.'"
Joanne Chesimard was convicted in 1977 of killing State Police officer Werner Foerster in East Brunswick in 1973. Chesimard, a Black Liberation Army radical, was in the car with two men, including one who shot Foerster with the trooper’s gun.
Chesimard escaped from the women’s prison in Hunterdon County in 1979.
She is at the top of the State Police's most wanted list, with a $2 million bounty on her head.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5.
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